Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cheer Up! We're Done For

We are done for as a species. We are going into a period of climate change so dramatic, that our brains will have to get bigger or more powerful, just like the times our hominid ancestors' brains did. The people who come out the other side of that will be a different species, in a few thousand years.

The traits to be selected for this time will be brains with the ability to think ever more abstractly. As we abstract useful generalizations, from a larger and larger pool of information, we will be better able to deal with the changing environment. We are evolving away from fear and violence, toward cooperation and love.

Unfortunately, I can't see how this evolution is going to happen without a massive die-off first. The captains of industry who have so mightily resisted the chance that science could allay man-made effects on the environment, have ensured it. I hope this prediction does not come true. But we will know very well if it does. Our communication and epidemiological surveillance systems will probably be intact long enough to register the first absolute decline in human population of the historical era. If we stop being able to maintain those systems, you can be sure the masses in the cities will not be fed.

The die-off might not be the cause of much evolution to begin with. The real rapid period of evolution might not start until the current social structures disappear. Maybe it will happen in Africa, as all the previous periods of rapid human evolution did. Africa still has the highest level of human genetic diversity. Who will survive, as that continent becomes less and less hospitable to life? Our prior experience shows the possibility that the most fearful and violent will kill each other off, along with the weaker, slower non-violent types. Those who are able to find extremely sophisticated ways of cooperation, will be the ancestors of the new species. At the end of one of the last periods of severe climate change, it is estimated that only about 600 breeding individuals of our ancestry were alive. Even if a much larger remnant survive, they could be heavily selected for wisdom, love, compassion, and self-sacrifice.

If past hominid migration patterns hold true in the future, the burgeoning populations of the next climatically-favorable period are likely to spread from Africa in all directions, and wipe out the less-evolved post-homo sapiens they meet. They will eventually capture them all, put them in zoos, and institute a careful breeding program to keep their population levels up. But it may not work, because those old-style people will be so in love with their post-human captors, that they won't be able to stand each other. They will refuse to mate. The post-humans will not consider forcibly inseminating them, so most will die out, after happy lives.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant stuff, I think. The comparison to the last Ice Age and the tiny population that was actually alive at that time is very apt. So it sounds like the survivors will have to have bigger, appropriately-wired brains, and probably also exceptionally strong immune systems, not to mention the ability to survive the violence and unrest of the Final Days, either due to hardiness or political acumen or suchlike. Or, as Steven J. Gould might have said, it might just be an accident which of the appropriately-wired individuals survives. It might just be a question of being close enough to one of the remaining food sources, far enough from a given devastating natural (earthquake, tsunami) or man-made (nuclear meltdown or other contamination) disaster, or suchlike that determines whether one gets to survive or not....and with the right brain make-up and a good immune system and so on.